CANBERRA, Australia (CNS) — The Australian Parliament is considering legislation that would allow the country’s two territories to pass their own laws, paving the way for legalizing euthanasia.
On Aug. 2, the House of Representatives passed the Restoring Territory Rights Bill 2022, which removes the risk of the federal government overriding the territories’ laws. The bill must still be passed by the Australian Senate.
The primary aim of the new legislation was to enable the last of the country’s 25 million citizens — who live in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory, which includes Canberra, to set their own laws on euthanasia, or voluntary assisted dying.
The sparsely populated Northern Territory was the first to legalize such practices, but its law was overturned by the federal Parliament, which does not have the same powers over Australia’s six states, all of which have passed assisted dying laws since 2019.
A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn told Catholic News Service: “Archbishop (Christopher) Prowse notes the passing of the Restoring Territory Rights Bill through the House of Representatives. A number of speeches made in the debate presented careful and rational perspectives on all sides of the issues at hand. He expresses his appreciation to all those members (of Parliament) who understood the serious issues at play and voted according to their consciences.”
“While the passing of the bill through the House was decisive, the archbishop prays that the same careful consideration to the obligation to act for the common good and the dignity of human persons is present in the forthcoming deliberations in the Senate,” the spokesman said.
Catholic Health Australia, which represents the network of Catholic hospitals and aged care providers across the country, has issued a warning on the new bill.
“The Restoring Territory Rights Bill is nothing more than a Trojan horse for assisted suicide,” said Brigid Meney, the association’s director of strategy and mission. “It is beholden on Parliamentarians to be upfront about the true motives of this legislation.”
“It is disappointing that politicians are so quick to lend their support to a bill that sanctions the ending of a life but have been largely silent at the very real lack of funding by the Commonwealth for palliative care services in the last budget,” she added.
The Catholic Church, along with other religious groups, has waged a concerted campaign against euthanasia laws in the country.
“We hear people saying that this would allow people to ‘die with dignity’ and that it is each individual’s ‘right’ to choose the timing and manner of their death. This view, although born of compassion, is misguided and even dangerous,” according to the introduction to “Real care, love and compassion — an alternative to euthanasia,” a color pamphlet distributed in schools by the church.
“Killing people is wrong, and this principle is fundamental to our law. In the very few jurisdictions overseas where euthanasia or assisted suicide have been introduced, there is already ample evidence that the system is being abused and the legislated safeguards are being ignored.”
The legislation comes as doctors are using courts to clarify what they say are arcane rules around voluntary assisted dying in the state of Victoria.